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Ten Recommendations for Cancer Prevention

At the end of October 2007, the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) published 10 recommendations for cancer prevention based on a report published at the same time. The WCRF Expert Report is the most comprehensive report on cancer prevention ever produced.

The report took six years to produce and looked at all available research on cancer prevention. An initial 500,000 studies were screened down to 22,000, and then it was decided that 7,000 of these studies met the rigorous standards for inclusion in the report. This literature review process was done by nine independent universities, which then presented the information to a panel of 21 world-renowned experts who reviewed the comprehensive collection of evidence and drew conclusions and made recommendations.

Children's Food & Nutrition
Because of the thoroughness of the report and the expertise of the panel, people can read the report’s findings confident that it is the most reliable and comprehensive information available on cancer prevention. WCRF UK has developed 10 recommendations based on the conclusions of the expert report panel that certain foods and lifestyle choices affect the development of cancer.

They outline the practical steps you can take to reduce your risk:

1. Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight

Convincing evidence shows that weight gain and obesity increases the risk of a number of cancers, including bowel and breast cancer.

Maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular physical activity to help keep your risk lower.

2. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day

There is strong evidence that physical activity protects against cancers including bowel and breast cancer. Being physically active is also key to maintaining a healthy weight.

Any type of activity counts – the more you do the better! Try to build some into your everyday life.

3. Avoid sugary drinks. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods (particularly processed foods high in added sugar, or low in fibre, or high in fat)

Energy-dense foods are high in fats and/or sugars and can be low in nutrients. These foods increase the risk of obesity and therefore cancer. Sugary drinks, such as colas and fruit squashes can also contribute to weight gain. Fruit juices, even without added sugar, are likely to have a similar effect, so try not to drink them in large quantities.

Try to eat lower energy-dense foods such as vegetables, fruits and wholegrains instead. Opt for water or unsweetened tea or coffee in place of sugary drinks.

4. Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains and pulses such as beans

Evidence shows that vegetables, fruits and other foods containing dietary fibre (such as wholegrains and pulses) may protect against a range of cancers including mouth, stomach and bowel cancer. They also help to protect against weight gain and obesity.

As well as eating your 5 A DAY, try to include wholegrains (e.g. brown rice, wholemeal bread and pasta) and/or pulses with every meal.

5. Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats

There is strong evidence that red and processed meats are causes of bowel cancer, and that there is no amount of processed meat that can be confidently shown not to increase risk.

Aim to limit intake of red meat to less than 500g cooked weight (about 700-750g raw weight) a week. Try to avoid processed meats such as bacon, ham, salami, corned beef and some sausages.

6. If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 for men and 1 for women a day

Since the 1997 report, the evidence that alcoholic drinks can increase the risk of a number of cancers, including breast and colon cancer, is much stronger.

Any alcohol consumption can increase your risk of cancer, though there is some evidence to suggest that small amounts of alcohol can help protect against heart disease. Therefore, if you choose to drink, do so in moderation.

7. Limit consumption of salty foods and food processed with salt (sodium)

Evidence shows that salt and salt-preserved foods probably cause stomach cancer.
Try to use herbs and spices to flavour your food and remember that processed foods, including bread and breakfast cereals, can contain large amounts of salt.

8. Don’t use supplements to protect against cancer

Research shows that high-dose nutrient supplements can affect our risk of cancer, so it's best to opt for a balanced diet without supplements.

However, supplements are advisable for some groups of people (see our recommendations booklet to learn more).

Special Population Recommendations

Recommendations 9 and 10 don’t apply to everyone, but if they are relevant to you, it’s best to follow them.

9. It's best for mothers to breastfeed exclusively for up to 6 months and then add other liquids and foods

Strong evidence shows that breastfeeding protects mothers against
breast cancer and babies from excess weight gain.

10. After treatment, cancer survivors should follow the recommendations for cancer prevention

The Report found growing evidence that maintaining a healthy weight through diet and physical activity may help to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence.

And, always remember – do not smoke or chew tobacco
Smoking or using tobacco in any form increases the risk of cancer and other serious diseases.
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Keep in mind that research on these matters is on-going and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.
© Paula Mee 2015
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